George @ Berklee

Making the most of $40,000

Friday, March 23, 2007

Nashville, TN '07 Part Six: The Wrap-up!

Hey funseekers! Well our last day in Nashville wasn't quite as packed as the other ones. We woke up early and packed the bus with our luggage then went to one last songwriting clinic with producer Kyle Lehning and songwriter Mike Reid. Mike Reid is known for writing "I can't make you love me if you don't" for Bonnie Raitt. It was a really good clinic but all the clinics during the week were amazing.

At lunch, Matt and I ate lunch at the chicken finger place across the street from the hotel, Otter's Chicken Tenders. The best part about food in the south is washing it all down with a nice cold glass of sweet tea. Sweet tea is awesome, they even serve it at McDonalds. My mouth is actually watering a little bit just thinking about it.

After lunch, we had a real treat. We were allowed to sit in with a real Nashville recording session. We watched "The Time Jumpers" cut a track in a studio called "The Tracking Room" They were an amazing western swing band (western swing is kinda a cross between country and jazz). They were really amazing, they were all well known session players and the rhythm guitarist was "Ranger Doug" Green of "Riders in the Sky" fame! Sweet! The pedal steel player was John Hughey who is in the steel guitar hall of fame (who knew that even existed?)

It's a huge understatement to say that they were amazing musicians. I think everyone's jaw was on the floor after they played.

After we hung out there for a few hours we boarded the buses for the long trip home and 20+ hours of falling asleep on a uncomfortable bus seat later, we're back in Beantown. It was an amazing trip. I feel really inspired and energized and I think that this is going to change my writing for the better, permanently. It's really been a life changing experience and a really fun time. Now it's time to get to bed early and tomorrow I'm going to get cracking on homework and practice for next week! Take care everyone, more updates to come!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Nashville, TN '07 Part Five:

Wow, what a day.

Let me just start out by saying that the BMI building is ridiculous. Gold faucets anyone? It's like Saddam Hussein used to live there. I was wondering if they poured out expensive perfume instead of water but I was wrong.

Since the inspirational message from last time was such a hit (I'm guessing? Nobody left a comment) Here's some more! The top one can be found on the patio of Warner Brother records and the bottom one is found in the lobby of the SESAC building (see below) Click to enlarge!

Today I went to a couple workshops, the first one was a management booking one. They had a really distinguished panel of artist managers, agents and promoters. We talked about the roles of everyone in breaking a new artist and had a chance to ask questions. An interesting thing was that I kept asking questions about touring to one lady who was an artist manager and she just looked straight at me and said that if I was asking those questions that I was ready to tour so who knows, maybe I'll be hitting the road this Summer.

The afternoon session after lunch was spectacular. Gillian Welch and David Rawlings played for us and answered questions. If you've never heard of them, they're a neo-bluegrass duet and they write AMAZING songs. They played one song, "Tear My Steel House Down" which blew me away, I'll have to cover it at open mic sometime.

After the Gillian Welch workshop we went over to SESAC (they're an artist royalty company) for a workshop about Gospel/Christian music. They speakers were Eddie DeGarmo (of DeGarmo and Keys fame) and Brian White (of Brian White and the Justice). I've never heard of them before but apparently they're pretty big wheels in the Christian music machine. (Brian also co-wrote the #1 country song at the moment "Watching You") I was asking questions about the business of writing worship music (something I want to dabble in more) and it was really interesting and informative. I even took a picture with Brian. :)

Later today we went back to the Station Inn for more country music goodness. They had an alumni showcase and some of our clinicians played. Gillian Welch and David Rawlings brought the house down. They are really unreal. It's shocking how someone can be that much better at writing songs than me. I'm not discouraged though, I'm going to dig in my heels and work on improving my writing. :)
I'll leave you with one last image. Nashville is actually not a very big city at all, in fact this is the entire skyline:
Yikes. Well tomorrow is our last day here and we board the bus tomorrow afternoon for the 20 hour bus ride back. I'll do a wrap up report on Thursday or Friday back in Boston. Take care everyone and thanks for reading!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Nashville, TN '07 Part Four:

Check it out everyone. This picture is taken from the lobby of the BMI building. (BMI is a company that looks after performances of songs and distributes royalties to the writers)

This is what the message says (you can also click to enlarge):

What passion cannot music raise and quell?

The trumpet shall be heard on high,
The dead shall live, the living die,
And music shall untune the sky.

Very nice. :)

Ok, so we started the day off with a cool workshop with Janis Ian. She wrote "I learned the truth at seventeen, that love was made for beauty queens." Apparently it's a hit for Jan Arden right now in Canada but I'm not sure. Anyways she's really cool and has quite a bit of spark in her still after all these years. She talked mostly about the nature and responsibilities of being an artist and keeping integrity in your work.

When I first sat down for the workshop I received a bit of a surprise too. Some people recognized me from the blog. Apparently this little blog is starting to get noticed thanks to you guys, the loyal viewers! (and would it kill you to leave a comment once in a while? I read all of them and you don't even need to register!) but I digress.... Thanks for taking the time to read routine ridiculous ramblings written rottenly. (alliteration! the 'w' in written is silent!)

Here's Rob and Debbie: fans of the blog! They work for the college in some capacity! Woo!

You may be wondering why I never have pictures of the people doing workshops in my blog. It's because I try to ask people if it's OK if I feature them on here when I'm taking their picture, unless it's a concert or show or something like that.

In the afternoon we had a workshop with Gretchen Wilson (Redneck Woman) and Vickie McGehee (one of her songwriters). It was really interesting. Gretchen talked about what it was like to be famous and life on the road. We got to ask questions and we watched a couple of her videos. She was really nice and down to earth.

I also went to see a workshop on marketing techniques with Echomusic marketing guruMark Montgomery and a panel of marketing thinktank experts. He recommended a lot of books to read. (sorry social life, my dance card this Summer is full) He also talked about his theories about the new frontier of the music business and how consumers will take advantage of technology to purchase and find out about music in the future.

In the evening we went to a restaurant called The Boundary for an alumni reception (and free food)! Matt and I worked the room a bit and met some cool people. Schmoozed it you will. We talked to alumni about what it's like to live in Nashville and finally got to meet a lot of the other people on the trip. We plugged The Middle Eights a little bit. *cough* LINK! *cough*

I'll leave you good folks with Jiro. He's from Japan and plays the Dobro. For anyone who hasn't seen one, a dobro is kinda like a guitar except you play it flat on your lap and with a slide. It's a traditional bluegrass instrument. Apparently after the US, Japan has the largest number of bluegrass musicians in the whole world. Who knew? Anyways, have a great night and we'll catch up more tommorow.

Nashville, TN '07 Part Three:

Hey everyone! This update will be short because frankly, I'm exhausted.

This morning Matt and I woke up early to take a tour of Ocean Way studios here in Nashville. It's a really nice and world famous music studio. Some of the albums that were recorded there include Sheryl Crow's "C'mon C'mon", Avril Lavigne's "Let Go" and Faith Hill's "Breathe". This is a picture of what it looks like to be standing in the middle of studio A and looking into the control room. Studio A is the biggest recording room and it used to be a church.

Here's a picture of some of the gorgeous antique windows!

The morning session was great too, we had a clinic with a panel of Berklee Alumni that now live in Nashville. They answered a lot of questions about the music scene in Nashville and what it's like to live here. Very informative and useful.

After lunch we had some dynamite workshops with Grammy award winning singer/songwriter Kathy Mattea and then had a clinic with Grammy award winning songwriters Jon Vezner and Don Henry. They played songs for us and told us about their careers and what they did to get where they are. They're all amazingly talented and unbelieveably humble. They were very patient and took time to answer lots of questions.

After that we went to a local bar here called the Station Inn for an open bluegrass jam! There were some amazing local players and a couple Berklee students even went on stage to join the jam.

I'm really digging the country music thing lately and want to really dig my teeth in to some more roots based music. (foreshadowing!!!)

Wish you all could have been there!!!!

Here's a short/blurry cellphone video that I uploaded so you can get a sense of the atmosphere.

Tomorrow there will be more workshops with industry bigwigs and songwriting clinics with Gretchen Wilson ("Redneck Woman") and Janis Ian ("I learned the truth at seventeen, that love was meant for beauty queens..") Take it easy everyone!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Nashville, TN '07 Part Two:

Hey everyone, here's part 2 of my ongoing series of adventures here in the South.

Today we had workshops at Warner Brother's records, we had a tour and saw a lot of gold and platinum records on the wall. Also a lot of break rooms and meeting rooms (the security guard had a thing for them for some reason.. seriously.) After the tour we received nametags and had a Q&A session with some industry bigwigs here in Nashville. They answered questions about the general music business and what it was like to live in Nashville.

The main meat of the day was having Beth Neilsen Chapman and Rodney Crowell perform for us, give us a talk about the music business and answer questions. It was really informative and entertaining. I feel like I'm really close to having a breakthrough in terms of my writing so I think that there's going to be some very exciting new stuff soon.

After that we went to the Grand Ole Opry. It was really cool. The whole thing was broadcast on the radio and part of it was live on TV. They provided everyone with complementary tickets to the show and it was awesome.
Matt was really REALLY excited.

Gretchen Wilson and Loretta Lynn (and others!) performed and then Berklee presented Loretta with an honourary doctorate for her contributions to modern music. We then got to go on a backstage tour of the Opry which was really really neat because they took us backstage while the show was still going on. We got to see the dressing rooms and staging areas then they actually took us onto the stage.

Check it out! We're actually behind the band! Just a glimpse of what it'd be like to perform at the Grand Ole Opry!

Judy was pretty much the best tour guide ever.

Oh Snap!! It's cornbread!

Well we're getting up early tomorrow to go on a tour of a real professional Nashville studio and we're going to an open country/bluegrass jam so stay tuned to this space for more Spring Break action!!!!


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Nashville, TN '07 Part One:

Hello funseekers!

Updates are coming a bit more quickly while I'm on Spring break. The Comfort Inn here has free wireless internet. I'll try to do daily updates along with blurry cell phone photos.

Well here we are in Nashville Tennessee after having endured a 20 hour bus ride where it rained across 6 states (maybe more, I slept through a lot of it). We watched a couple movies but mostly it was watching the scenery go by. We visited some lovely truck stops in various places I've never heard of and at breakfast at a breakfast buffet place called "Shoney's" somewhere in Virginia this morning.

The most striking thing about Nashville is how much it is like Calgary during Stampede. Everyone is wearing cowboy hats and listening to country music. We visited downtown a little bit and saw some people play country while having some Tennessee BBQ and washing it down with sweet tea.

Here's a pic of the Gaylord center. It's right downtown just like the Saddledome is. It's looking like it's going to be Flames vs. Preds in the first round of the playoffs this year.

This is is the entrance to Rippy's, the bar/restaurant we had dinner at tonight.

Mmmmmm... BBQ.....

This is the Warner Records/BMI building which we'll be taking a tour of and having clinics and workshops at for most of the time here in Nashville, that starts bright and early tomorrow morning. More updates to come!


Introducing... The Middle Eights